MANILA, Philippines – While Filipinos are no strangers to 3-on-3 basketball, it still took them some time to get used to the intricacies of the discipline during the 2018 FIBA 3x3 Basketball World Cup held over the past few days at the Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan.
The three-a-side version of the sport is played on virtually every street in the Philippines by players of all genders and ages. But the more formal version of 3x3 basketball that was played in the World Cup still took some getting used to, particularly when it came to the officiating.
Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) president Al Panlilio noted as much last Sunday, when he commended the Filipino fans who braved heavy rains to come to the Philippine Arena and watch some of the best 3x3 teams in the world compete at the highest level.
"The crowd, I think, is learning the game," said Panlilio. "'Bakit foul 'to, bakit hindi foul 'yan, bakit ganyan 'yung tawag?'"
The 3x3 format appeared to be more physical than 5-on-5, with the smaller players getting away with pushing and shoving big men inside the post. Teams get into penalty with their seventh foul, which awards the opposing team two free throws. When they commit a 10th foul, they go into "double penalty" – two foul shots plus ball possession for the other team.
These were the intricacies that the Filipino fans needed to get used to. The concept of "double penalty," in particular, was thrust into the spotlight when the Philippine women's team played Hungary in their final game and found themselves in the situation with 3:17 left to play.
Panlilio had no doubt that the Filipinos quickly got used to the differences, however.
"Filipinos have a very high basketball IQ, and they are very quick to understand na, 'O, ganoon pala'," said Panlilio.
"Things are very different than 5-on-5, but it's a very exciting sport too," he added.
No official figures were given regarding the crowd attendance, but Panlilio was quite pleased with the turnout of the fans – especially given the circumstances.
"We know the weather has not been very good the past four days," said Panlilio. "But if you compare it to other tournaments in other parts of the word, you average maybe 3,000, 4,000, kasi normally outdoor 'yan."
"But here, as you can see, we have at least, I don't have the count but just looking at it, I think we have more than 5,000 today, more than 5,000 on Saturday," he added.
The SBP president also noted that the presence of the Filipino fans was clearly a boost to the national teams. Jack Animam of the women's team memorably shed tears when asked how it felt to play in front such a supportive crowd.
"You can see that both teams, the men's and women's teams were inspired because of the crowd. So nagpapasalamat ako sa inyo for supporting them," said Panlilio.
For more sports coverage, visit the ABS-CBN Sports website.